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12 posts from February 2018

02/28/2018

~ Greek-Style Flank Steak Salad or Pocket Sammies ~

IMG_5213I'm going Greek today.  It happens a few times a year -- my lust for lemon and garlic and oregano combined with crumbly feta cheese and/or creamy Greek yogurt takes over.  Thank goodness I have a few excellent recipes go to.  Sometimes I'm inclined to quash my craving by incorporating shrimp, other times I choose lamb, chicken is not off limits, but, one of my all-time favorites is flank stank.  When duly-marinated and rare-cooked via broiling or grilling, it is a carnivorous Greek goddess's dream come true.  I adore this hearty, main-dish salad topped plenty of crunchy herb-bread croutons, and, the only thing I enjoy more:  stuffing this salad into a pita pocket. 

IMG_5021Let me start by saying, my homemade Greek salad dressing (recipe below) turns this salad or sandwich from ordinary to extraordinary.  My secret ingredient is high-quality lemon-infused olive oil, with which even fresh lemon juice cannot compete.  That said, when one is using vinaigrette-type salad dressing to marinade meat, poultry or seafood, the marinade gets thrown away (unlike other types of marinades which get simmered on the stovetop and used as a sauce for dipping and drizzling).  

IMG_5029For that reason, I marinate my flank steak in a high-quality, store-bought Greek vinaigrette-type dressing containing no artificial flavorings or preservatives, but, a lot of spices that complement my own dressing.

IMG_5036In a 1-gallon ziplock bag, marinate for 4-6 hours at room temp or overnight in the refrigerator:

2-2 1/2 pound flank steak, in

1  cup Gazebo Room Greek dressing and marinade

"Gazebo Greek" is a fine product and I feel a lot less guilt pouring the store-bought marinade down the drain after the steak has marinated in it as opposed to my homemade dressing.

My Big Fat Greek Lemony-Garlic Salad Dressing:

6a0120a8551282970b019aff4d8c8b970d 21  cup red wine vinegar

1/4  cup lemon-infused olive oil

1/2  cup sugar

1  tablespoon Dijon mustard

3-4  large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

1/4  cup fine-crumbled feta

1  tablespoon Greek seasoning

1/4  teaspoon each:  sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

~ Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid, place all ingredients.  Shake vigorously. You will have 1 1/2 cups of dressing. Set aside for 2-8 hours, at room temperature, to allow the flavors plenty of time to marry.

Note:  If you want to make the dressing further in advance, store it in the refrigerator and return it to room temperature prior to serving.  Because this dressing contains fresh garlic, use it within 3 days, as after that, the garlic can begin to grow bacteria that can make make you ill.

My Big Fat Greek Flank Steak Salad:

IMG_51571  2-2 1/2-pound flank steak, marinated as directed above and cooked as directed below

IMG_51303-4  whole heads hearts-of-romaine, the "hearts" being the inner leaves from the typical bushy head (about 12-16 ounces total weight), leaves torn into small, bite-sized pieces or cut chiffonade-style (into 1/2" strips or ribbons), washed, dried (preferably through a salad spinner) and chilled until very crisp

1  cup very thinly-sliced (shaved) red onion

1 1/2  cups peeled and diced Kirby cucumber, 1 large cucumber

3/4  cup pimiento-stuffed green Spanish olives, well-drained and cut in half

3/4  cup pitted Greek kalamata olives, well-drained and cut in half

1 1/2-2  cups grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 1/2-2  cups crumbled feta cheese, 6-8 ounces

1 1/2-2  cups homemade croutons (for salad), or, pita pocket bread (for sammies)

1 1/2  cups salad dressing, from above recipe

IMG_5061 IMG_5061 IMG_5061 IMG_5061 IMG_5061~Step 1.   Position oven rack about 8" underneath heating element and preheat broiler.  Remove the room temperature flank steak from the marinade and place on an 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" disposable aluminum broiler pan (the kind with the corrugated bottom).  Place the flank steak under the broiler and cook for 8-9 minutes, until steak is golden brown and bubbly. Remove from the oven and flip steak over.  Return to broiler and cook 8-9 more minutes, using an instant-read meat thermometer to test for doneness after 8 minutes. Remove from oven when it reaches an internal temperature of 130°-134°.  Allow to rest 10-15 minutes prior to slicing*.

*Note:  My favorite way to serve this salad is while the flank steak is still warm.  That said, it is uncompromisingly-delicious served with steak that has been refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature (take it out of the refrigerator about an hour prior to slicing it), so, feel free to wrap the cooked steak in plastic wrap, refrigerate overnight, and slice it the next day.

IMG_5150 IMG_5152~ Step 2.  Slice meat in half lengthwise, then thinly-slice each half across the grain while holding the knife at a 30° angle, into thin (1/8"-1/4"-thick) strips.  Roll each meat strip up roulade-style*, placing them in a bowl as you work.

*Note:  A roulade (roo-LAHD) is a fancy French term for a thin slice of raw or cooked meat rolled around a filling then secured with some kitchen twine or a toothpick.  If the meat is raw, the roulade is cooked after rolling, if the meat is cooked, the roulade is ready for serving.

IMG_5162 IMG_5162 IMG_5162 IMG_5162 IMG_5162 IMG_5162 IMG_5162 IMG_5162 IMG_5202~Step 3.  In each of 6-8 individual salad plates, compose the salad by dividing, layering and arranging ingredients in the following order:  lettuce chiffonade, shaved red onion, diced cucumber, steak roulades, green olive-, kalamata olive- and grape tomato halves.  Sprinkle feta cheese crumbles over the top of each salad and top with a few crispy croutons.

Bring on the dressing, have a seat & hand out the forks:

IMG_5217Or, stuff it all into a pita pocket or two & eat 'em on the run:

IMG_5224Greek-Style Flank Steak Salad or Pocket Sammies:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups dressing and 6-8 large, main-dish servings of salad, or, 6-8 pita pocket sandwiches (12-16 half sandwiches).

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; 1-gallon food storage bag; 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" disposable aluminum broiler pan; instant-read meat thermometer; cutting board; chef's knife

IMG_9864Cook's Note: For me, it's impossible to walk past a vendor selling gyros -- the iconic Greek sandwich.  My first gyro encounters were limited to the Jersey Shore in the latter 1960's and Mr. Krinos (a friend of my cousin) explained they were, Greek-style, a combo of beef and lamb wrapped in a pocketless pita with lettuce, tomato and onion, and, served with a cucumber-yogurt-based tzatziki sauce.  Here's my recipe for ~ My Greek Gyro-Style Beef & Lamb 'Burger' Pitas ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/25/2018

~Bread Machine Herbed-Pizza-Dough Sandwich Loaf~

IMG_5007Can your favorite pizza dough be turned into a loaf of bread?  I have no idea -- it's your recipe. With certainty, I can tell you:  my slightly-adjusted Sicilian-style pizza dough recipe can be turned into an amazing loaf of savory, slightly-firm-textured bread, and, what's more, I let the bread machine do all the work for me.  Imagine the ingredients for your favorite submarine- hoagie-type sandwich piled high between two slices of herbed-pizza-bread, or, an herbed-pizza-bread grilled cheese or panini, or, crispy herbed-pizza-bread croutons tossed into your favorite chef's salad.

Put all ingredients in pan & let the machine do the work.

IMG_5044Walk away & come up with a sandwich plan or two.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d7ca6f970cFor the dough:

1 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

1  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and coarse-grind black pepper

1  packet granulated dry yeast

Check the instruction manual on YOUR machine before proceeding.

IMG_4990Step 1.  To prepare the dough, place all ingredients in pan of bread machine in the order listed, except for the yeast.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Place the yeast into the indentation.  It is important to keep the dry yeast away from the wet ingredients until it is time for the machine to knead them together, because the liquid ingredients will prematurely activate the yeast.

IMG_5001~ Step 2.  Insert bread pan into bread machine and press down until it is "clicked" securely into place.  Close the lid and plug the machine in.  Press "select" choose "white bread".  Press the "loaf size" button to select "2-pound loaf".  Press the "crust control" button and select "light crust".  Press "start".  Depending on the make and model of your bread machine, you will have a 2-pound, fully-baked loaf of herbed-pizza-dough bread ready and waiting for you in 3 hours.

IMG_4204~ Step 3.  Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the kneading, rising or baking process.  Don't do it.

When bread machine signals the bread is done, carefully open the lid.  Using a pot holder, remove the bread pan from the machine by using the handle to lift it up and out.  Turn the bread pan at about a 30-45 degree angle and gently shake/slide the loaf out onto its side.  Turn the loaf upright and place it on a wire cooling rack to cool completely. 

IMG_4208Note:  If the kneading paddle (which is steaming hot) happens to remain in the loaf after you've removed the loaf from the pan, unless you have a pair of culinary tweezers, completely cool the loaf before removing it.

~ Step 4.  This is a photo of a 2-pound loaf taken the moment it has been removed from the bread machine.  At first glimpse it's a bit overwhelming, but I assure you, you're going to fall in love with this bread.  Once cooled, which takes about 3 hours:  Starting at the top, slice the loaf in half, to form 2 smaller, 1-pound loaves.  Two for one:  eat one, freeze one for later.

Because a sandwich is only as good as the bread:

IMG_5015Be all that you can be.  Be a sandwich-making hero(ine)...

IMG_5057... or a salad-composing, crouton-topped king or queen:

IMG_5213Bread Machine Herbed-Pizza-Dough Sandwich Loaf:  Recipe yields 1, 2-pound loaf bread, which is equivalent to 2, 1-pound sandwich loaves.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine; pot holder or oven mitt; wire cooling rack

IMG_4335 IMG_4127Cook's Note: More fun news. After using the bread machine to knead my herbed pizza  dough recipe (which only takes 55 minutes), you can use the dough to make ~ Baked-in-Muffin-Tin Slider-Size Pizza Dough Rolls ~ to make my  ~ Super Sausage-Pizza Sliders on Pizza Dough Rolls ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/22/2018

~ Japanese Teriyaki Meets American Chicken Wings ~

IMG_4956Chicken wings are all-American and teriyaki is an all-Japanese method of cooking.  Trust me when I tell you, if you walk into a restaurant in Japan, you aren't likely to find teriyaki chicken wings on their menu.  That said, Japanese teriyaki sure does turn out a really good version of American chicken wings, however, unlike our traditionally-prepared wings, which are typically plunged into the hot oil of a deep fryer, teriyaki wings, in order to render their signature fall-off-the-bone tender interior with a slightly-crispy, sticky exterior, they require a kinder, gentler treatment. 

As a lover of Asian fare, teriyaki-in-general is one of my favorite ways to cook.  Teriyaki is as well known outside of Japan as sushi or ramen is, so, most American people, kids included, will give "teriyaki anything" a try.  A bottle of teriyaki sauce has been a staple condiment in my pantry for as long as I've had a pantry, standing right next to the elites:  Heinz ketchup, French's mustard, Hellman's mayonnaise and Lee & Perrin's worcestershire sauce.  That said, teriyaki sauce is seriously simple to make, and, it can be customized to suit your family's taste.  I typically prepare a double- or triple-sized batch, then keep what I don’t use in the refrigerator, so it's ready to reheat the next time a "teriyaki anything" craving hits me or mine -- as often as once a week.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f3cb15970dTeriyaki (tehr-uh-yah-kee):  Teriyaki is a Japanese term referring to a method of cooking beef, chicken, fish or seafood marinated (in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic and/or ginger) prior to being grilled, broiled or stir-fried. "Teri" is the Japanese word for "luster", and it is the sugar in the marinade that gives the food its "teri" or shiny glaze.  It's interesting to note that in Japan, there is no official teriyaki sauce.  Teriyaki sauce was invented by the early Japanese settlers to the islands of Hawaii.  They created:

A slightly-sweet nicely-thickened marinade/basting sauce using local, readily-available, easy-to-acquire Hawaiian products.  For example: pineapple juice (in place of the mirin or sake of their homeland) and wild garlic (in conjuction with ginger they brought with them), mixed with soy sauce and thickened with cornstarch.  The subject at hand (beef, chicken, fish or seafood) is marinated for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer for a more pronounced flavor, then cooled.

IMG_4945Because teriyaki sauce is sweet, a portion of the marinade is typically reserved to use as a dipping sauce served w/the dish.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f3cd81970dFor the teriyaki sauce:

1/2  cup tamari soy sauce or soy sauce

1/2  cup mirin (a cooking wine made from rice) or sake (sometimes thought of as beer because it's made from grain, but classified as a wine)

1/4 cup white or brown sugar or honey

1  tablespoon each: garlic and ginger garlic paste

4  teaspoons cornstarch or potato starch

4  teaspoons cold water

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2dade8b970cStep 1.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cold water and cornstarch until smooth.

Step 2.  In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the tamari or soy sauce, mirin or sake, and, white or brown sugar or honey.  Add the garlic and ginger. Bring to a steady simmer over medium heat and cook about 1 minute.  Whisk cornstarch mixture into the sauce and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is drizzly but slightly-thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and use as directed in recipe.

To use as a marinade:  Cool teriyaki sauce to room temperature, or chill, prior to using as a marinade.  Keep any unused marinade, the stuff not used as a marinade for raw protein, stored in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for several weeks.  Any marinade used as a marinade must be reheated and simmered for 3-5 minutes prior to refrigerating and reusing.

Arrange 16-20 drumettes &/or wingettes in an 8" x 8" baking dish (save those flavorful wing tips for making chicken stock):

IMG_4899Add cooled teriyaki sauce & marinate at room temp 2-4 hours, or, overnight in the refrigerator, then return to room temperature:

IMG_4905Place in 325° oven for 2 hours, stirring every 20-30 minutes -- yes, the wings will slowly & gently simmer in & suck up flavor:

IMG_4910Remove from oven & reset oven to broil w/rack 5"-6" under heat:

IMG_4918Using tongs, remove wings from marinade, allowing excess liquid to drizzle off & place on a baking pan lined w/foil & parchment:

IMG_4921Broil until bubbly & charring, turning once, 3 minutes per side.  Allow wings to rest, on pan, for 4-6 minutes -- just do it.

IMG_4930Serve w/a bowl of the the super-flavorful warm marinade remaining in baking dish for dipping &/or drizzling:

IMG_4964Perfectly-cooked & simply delish:

IMG_4969Japanese Teriyaki Meets American Chicken Wings:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups teriyaki sauce and 16-20 chicken wings.

Special Equipment List: 1-quart saucepan; whisk; poultry shears; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; tongs

IMG_3870 IMG_4890Cook's Note:  While related by sauce, when it comes cooking anything teriyaki-style, depending on what it is, each food gets treated and cooked a bit differently.  Two examples are my recipes for ~ Open Sesame:  Japanese Teriyaki Steak Skewers ~, and, ~ Japanese-Style Oven-Broiled Teriyaki-Style Cod Fish ~. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/20/2018

~Japanese-Style Oven-Broiled Teriyaki-Style Cod Fish~

IMG_4896Eat more fish.  I've heard it too many times to count, and, I've preached it too many times to count.  Joe and I love fish, especially white fish, so, for me, keeping it in our weekly meal rotation is easy.  That said, serving it to people who've determined they dislike fish, or worse, trying to entice children to try fish, can be a tricky, fishy business.  On such occasions, teriyaki fish fillets or fish skewers, served with a veggie stir-fry and some rice, is my go-to "just try it" fish dinner.

As a lover of Asian fare, teriyaki-in-general is one of my favorite ways to cook.  Teriyaki is as well known outside of Japan as sushi or ramen is, so, most American people, kids included, will give "teriyaki anything" a try.  A bottle of teriyaki sauce has been a staple condiment in my pantry for as long as I've had a pantry, standing right next to the elites:  Heinz ketchup, French's mustard, Hellman's mayonnaise and Lee & Perrin's worcestershire sauce.  That said, teriyaki sauce is seriously simple to make, and, it can be customized to suit your family's taste.  I typically prepare a double- or triple-sized batch, then keep what I don’t use in the refrigerator, so it's ready to reheat the next time a "teriyaki anything" craving hits me or mine -- as often as once a week.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94a9feb970bTeriyaki (tehr-uh-yah-kee):  Teriyaki is a Japanese term referring to a method of cooking beef, chicken, fish or seafood marinated (in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic and/or ginger) prior to being grilled, broiled or stir-fried. "Teri" is the Japanese word for "luster", and it is the sugar in the marinade that gives the food its "teri" or shiny glaze.  It's interesting to note that in Japan, there is no official teriyaki sauce.  Teriyaki sauce was invented by the early Japanese settlers to the islands of Hawaii.  They created:

A slightly-sweet nicely-thickened marinade/basting sauce using local, readily-available, easy-to-acquire Hawaiian products.  For example: pineapple juice (in place of the mirin or sake of their homeland) and wild garlic (in conjuction with ginger they brought with them), mixed with soy sauce and thickened with cornstarch.  The subject at hand (beef, chicken, fish or seafood) is marinated for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer for a more pronounced flavor, then cooled.

IMG_4883Because teriyaki sauce is sweet, a portion of the marinade is typically reserved to use as a dipping sauce served w/the dish.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d4eeed970cFor the teriyaki sauce:

1/2  cup tamari soy sauce or soy sauce

1/2  cup mirin (a cooking wine made from rice) or sake (sometimes thought of as beer because it's made from grain, but classified as a wine)

1/4 cup white or brown sugar or honey

1  tablespoon each: garlic and ginger garlic paste

4  teaspoons cornstarch or potato starch

4  teaspoons cold water

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94aa195970bStep 1.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cold water and cornstarch until smooth.

Step 2.  In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the tamari or soy sauce, mirin or sake, and, white or brown sugar or honey.  Add the garlic and ginger. Bring to a steady simmer over medium heat and cook about 1 minute.  Whisk cornstarch mixture into the sauce and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is drizzly but slightly-thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and use as directed in recipe.

To use as a marinade:  Cool teriyaki sauce to room temperature, or chill, prior to using as a marinade.  Keep any unused marinade, the stuff not used as a marinade for raw protein, stored in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for several weeks.  Any marinade used as a marinade must be reheated and simmered for 3-5 minutes prior to refrigerating and reusing.

IMG_4871For the cod fish skewers:

1 1/2  cups teriyaki sauce, from above recipe, to be used to marinating fish, and, to be reheated after marinating the fish, to use as dipping sauce

1-1 1/4- pound cod fish fillet, cut into 1" cubes

8  8"-long wooden skewers

lightly-toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

IMG_4854~Step 1.  Place the cod fish fillet, flat, on a a sheet of plastic wrap.  As best you can, fashion it into a rectangle (tucking the thin ends underneath on either side), then wrap it tightly, so it holds that rectangular shape. Place the fish fillet, flat, in the freezer for 1 1/2-2 hours, just long enough to firm it up or semi-freeze it, which will make it seriously easier to cube.

IMG_4857 IMG_4857 IMG_4857 IMG_4857~Step 2. Remove the cod from the freezer, unwrap it, and, using a large chef's knife, cut it into 1" cubes, placing the cubes, in a single layer, in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish as you work.  Add the teriyaki sauce.  Place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 1-2 hours (2 is better).  

IMG_4867 IMG_4867 IMG_4872 IMG_4872 IMG_4872 IMG_4872~Step 3.  Line a 17 1/2" x 2" baking pan with aluminum foil then place a piece of parchment atop the foil.  One-at-a-time, thread 4-5 cubes of fish through their centers onto each of 8, 10" long wooden skewers, to within 3" of the top of each skewer  (which will serve as handles when it's time to flip the fish skewers over), arranging the skewers, in a single layer, about 1/2" apart (they should not be touching each other) on the pan. Place the pan of fish skewers 5"-6" under preheated broiler.  Cook until gently sizzling, lightly golden and nicely-firm to the touch, turning only once, about 7-8 minutes on the first side and 5-6 minutes on the second side (give or take a minute or two depending upon the heat of your broiler.

Note:  I don't recommend using a grill pan for fish.  Experience has taught: unlike grilling meat, chicken or seafood, no matter how much no-stick spray I apply to the grill pan, fish wants to stick. 

IMG_3787 IMG_3787~Step 4.  When the fish is finished marinating, pour the marinade from the baking dish into a 1-1 1/2-quart saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to simmer gently for 3-5 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Plate, garnish & serve ASAP atop a bed of steamed white rice...

IMG_4890... w/a veggie stir-fry & teriyaki sauce to the side for dipping. 

Japanese-Style Oven-Broiled Teriyaki-Style Cod Fish:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups teriyaki sauce, and, 4 servings when served with stir-fried vegetable and steamed white rice.

Special Equipment List:  plastic wrap; cutting board; chef's knife; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; 8, 10" wooden skewers

IMG_3837Cook's Note:  Place a platter of these appetizers on the cocktail table and I'll bet they disappear before bets can be taken on how long it will take them to disappear. Put a platter of them on the dinner table alongside a fresh vegetable stir-fry and some steamed white rice, and, when served as a family-friendly dinner, they won't last any longer either.  My recipe for ~ Open Sesame:  Japanese Teriyaki Steak Skewers ~, is a keeper-of-a-recipe you and yours are sure to love.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/18/2018

~Moist & Juicy Breaded & Deep-Fried Chicken Cutlets~

IMG_4757Breaded chicken cutlets are a big time-saver for a working parent.  By keeping a bag on-hand in the freezer, after a quick thaw in the microwave, any number of kid-friendly meals can be put on the family dinner table in less than an hour.  That said, the chicken cutlets found in the frozen-food section of the grocery store, are, for the most part:  terrible.  From way-too-much-cardboard-esque-breading to skinny, dried-out and rubberlike, I find them reprehensibly unpalatable.  

When I was raising three boys, after trying two (maybe three) brands of frozen, breaded chicken cutlets, and proceeding to throw all the remains away, they were added to my list of store-bought items I simply refused to buy for my kids.  Trust me, when it comes to kids, when you put your foot down to time-saving junk like the USA's favorite brand of boxed macaroni and cheese, all-things that help hamburger, and, chicken cutlets, you'd better have a show-stopping alternative.

Tenderize the most tender part of the chicken:

IMG_4676 IMG_4676 IMG_4676For about $14-$15 at a any of my local markets, I can purchase a "value pack" of 6-pounds chicken breast tenderloins, It contains approximately 3o tenderloins, which when breaded and deep-fried, are good-sized cutlets -- one or per two person.  When I get them home, I arrange them side-by-side, on a large cutting board, between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Using the flat-side of a meat mallet, I lightly-pound them, with "lightly" being the key word here -- do not smash them to smithereens.   Start-to-finish, this process takes less than five minutes and renders them fork tender.

Set up the deep-frying assembly line (left to right):

IMG_4687Chicken tenderloins, prepped as directed above.

One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 2 cups dry pancake mix.

One loaf-pan containing 2 1/2 cups pancake mix whisked with 22 ounces beer (Note:  Beer lends wonderful flavor with yeasty undertones to the breading.  That said, if I can't convince you that the heat of the deep-fryer will evaporate all the alcohol, feel free to substitute club soda.)

One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 2, 8-ounces boxes panko breadcrumbs.

Deep-fryer w/corn or peanut oil heated to 360° according to manufacturer's specifications.

Misc:  forks, 3-minute timer, wire cooling rack, paper towels, sea salt grinder.

IMG_4709~ Step 1.  When everything is measured and in place, whisk together the pancake mix and beer (or club soda). Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken a bit, to a drizzly consistency.  If at any point during the frying process (even at the outset) if the batter seems or gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer (or club soda) to maintain a very drizzly consistency.

IMG_4685~ Step 2.  This step is actually optional, so skip it if you like.  When it comes to chicken cutlets, I prefer the texture of my panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) to be less coarse.  To make that happen:

Place panko in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Using a series of 50-60 rapid on-off pulses, process these super-crispy breadcrumbs to finer crumbs.

Fry Baby Fry -- It's all about Fearless Frying:

IMG_4718 IMG_4718 IMG_4718 IMG_4718 IMG_4718~Step 1.  Working in batches of 2 cutlets at a time, dredge each paid in the dry pancake mix to coat it on all sides.  Note:  I fry 2 at a time because that is what fits comfortably in the basket of my fryer without overcrowding it.  Next, move up the assembly line, and, one-at-a-time dip each cutlet into the batter.  As you lift each one out of the batter, hold it over the bowl for a second or two, to allow the batter to drizzle back into the bowl.  As you batter dip each cutout, place it into the dish of panko. Dredge both of the cutlets in the panko ASAP.

IMG_4735 IMG_4735Step 2.  One-at-a-time, and with the aid of a fork, carefully lower the pair of breaded cutlets down into the 360° oil and into the fryer basket.  Close the lid and allow cutlets to deep-fry for 3 1/2-4 minutes.  Chicken cutlets will be a beautiful golden brown and just cooked through.  Do not overcook -- residual heat will continue to cook them.

IMG_4743Step 3.  Open fryer lid and slowly lift basket up and out of deep-fryer.  Transfer cutlets to a wire rack in a baking pan that has been lined with paper towels.  Tip:  To transfer the cutlets, simply tilt the basket onto its side directly over the rack.  Using tongs is a mistake -- an easy way to damage their crust.  Once out of the fryer, immediately sprinkle cutlets with freshly ground sea salt and repeat this process until all cutlets are breaded and fried.

IMG_4757~ Step 4.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, as directed in specific recipe.  To freeze, place completely cooled cutlets on a large baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Freeze, uncovered, several hours to overnight (overnight is best). Transfer frozen cutlets to a ziplock bag.  When needed, thaw and reheat room temperature cutlets in a 350° oven until just heated through, about 10 minutes.

Slice & add to a favorite main-dish salad in lieu of croutons:

IMG_4808Serve Asian-style w/a veggie stir-fry, white rice & dipping sauce:

IMG_4793And please pass the lightly-sauced-pasta w/cheesy parmigiana:

IMG_4766Moist & Juicy Breaded & Deep-Fried Chicken Cutlets:  Recipe yields instructions to batter-dip, bread, deep-fry and freeze chicken cutlets.

Special Equipment List:  large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 1, 9" x 5" x 4" loaf-type baking dish; whisk; forks; 3-minute timer; wire cooling rack; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d25243da970c 6a0120a8551282970b0192ac404b1a970dCook's Note: Batter dipping works great for other meats and vegetables too.  During the Summer zucchini onslaught, try making my ~ Batter-Dipped Panko-Crusted Deep-Fried Zucchini ~, and, in the Fall, my ~ Deep-Fried Pork Fingers w/Bone Suckin' Sauce ~ are a delightful alternative to ribs for a tailgate in front of the TV.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/16/2018

~ Warm and Cozy Crockpot Casserole Rice Pudding ~

IMG_4654Hear me out -- rice pudding made in the crockpot or slow cooker is never, EVER going to be competitive in a contest with the super-creamy-textured stovetop-cooked rice pudding made with Arborio-type rice simmered in a custard-esque cream and tempered-egg mixture.  It won't happen and ignore those who promise it will -- but, don't let this information lower your expectations.  Rice pudding made in the crockpot is simply scrumptious, and, seriously easy to make too, so:

On the days when the machinations of hovering over rice pudding made on the stovetop is just too much fuss...

IMG_4642... simply allow the crockpot to do the work for you.

IMG_45861  cup fragrant jasmine rice, or long-grain white rice

1  cup dark raisins

1  cup sugar

5  cups half-and-half, plus up to 1/2 cup additional cream, if desired

1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1  tablespoon butter-rum flavoring

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

4  tablespoons salted butter, melted

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing crock casserole

IMG_4630 IMG_4630 IMG_4630 IMG_4630~Step 1.  In a fine mesh strainer, thoroughly rinse the rice under cold running water for one full minute, gently shaking the strainer as you rinse to make sure all the grains get rinsed and drained.  Spray the inside (bottom and sides) of crock casserole with no-stick spray.  Add the rinsed rice, raisins, sugar, half-and-half, vanilla extract, butter-rum flavoring, cinnamon and salt to the crock.  Using a large spoon, give the mixture a gentle but thorough stir.

IMG_4600 IMG_4600 IMG_4600 IMG_4600 IMG_4636 IMG_4636~Step 2.  In microwave, melt the butter and drizzle it over the top of the rice mixture.  Do not stir. Place the lid on the crock, adjust heat to high and cook for 3 hours.  Turn the crockpot off, and allow the mixture to steep for 1 more hour, to allow rice to absorb excess moisture.  Give the mixture a stir.  If you want it a bit creamier, stir in up to 1/2 cup additional half-and-half.  Serve warm or at room temp.  Reheat individual portions gently in the microwave along with a splash of additional half-and-half stirred into each one (if desired).

Curl up on the sofa w/a good book or a great movie...

IMG_4658... & 4 hours later, enjoy a bowl of warm & cozy happiness:

IMG_4664Warm and Cozy Crockpot Casserole Rice Pudding:  Recipe yields 6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  fine mesh strainer; Crockpot casserole or another 3 1/2-4-quart slow-cooker; 1-quart measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b017d42943ffe970c-800wiCook's Note:  ~ My Creamy, Orange-Kissed Arborio Rice Pudding ~.  Technically, while rice pudding is not a custard per se, this type of rice pudding is prepared in the manner of custard, which is:  a sweetened egg/milk mixture that has been cooked gently on the stovetop or baked in a low oven. Stirred custards are usually made in a double boiler, while baked custards get cooked in a warm water bath, which is not the case in most rice pudding recipes. That said, "custard" was the best term I could think of to describe its preparation.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018) 

02/14/2018

~ Creamy-Coconut & Spicy-Hot Jamaican Pork Curry ~

IMG_4558Throughout the Caribbean, porcine reigns supreme, and, when it comes to perfectly-balanced, bright, slightly-sweet and spicy-hot curry blends, the Jamaicans have cornered the market.  That said, the world is full of curries, they are all different, and, for the home cook, it's almost impossible to prepare an authentic curry outside of the region it's prepared in, within its country of origin.  Why?  Because outside of the United States, curry is not a store-bought dried spice blend or wet paste that produces a predictable end result.  They're hand-made, mortar-and-pestle pulverized, dry or pasty concoctions of spices or herbs, the amounts of which vary to suit the palate of each family or cook -- on a daily basis -- Jamaican cooks are no exception.

Curry is anything but generic.  Culinarily, it's a complex topic:

"Curry" is a catch-all English (British) term used in Western cultures to denote stewike dishes from Southern and Southeast Asia, as well as Africa and the Caribbean. Dishes called curry are relatively easy to prepare and can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish. Seasonal vegetables can be included, or, the dish can be made only of vegetables (vegetarian). Some curries cook quickly, others cook slowly, some are thick, some are thin, many are economical weeknight meals, while others are expensive and reserved for celebrations.  Most curries are cooked in large shallow skillets or woks with lids, and, most curries are paired with some type of white rice.  

IMG_4551Curries can be "wet" or "dry".  What is common to wet curries is the use of cream, coconut milk or yogurt, and occasionally stock, to prepare the sauce ("kari" is the Indian word for "sauce").  They don't tend to be overly-thickened (gravylike), and, they aren't spicy hot (although they can be). This evolved out of necessity.  Water was often scarce and/or its use in cooking had to be avoided, so, the "creamers" were used as a silky, rich, substitution for water, not as a thickener. Dry curries are cooked in very little liquid in sealed pots.  Almost all of the liquid evaporates during the lengthy cooking process, leaving the ingredients heavily coated in the spice mixture.

The case for using commercial curry powders or pastes.

There are kitchen decisions that only the cook can make, and, in the American kitchen, for the average American cook, convenience typically triumphs over authenticity.  That said, it's not because the average American cook is lazy or uncreative.  In my case, I purchase high-quality blends or pastes because, on any given day, all the ingredients necessary to make a dry blend or a wet paste are not always available at the same time.  There's more.  Some concoctions contain ten or more sometimes-pricey ingredients, which after being mixed together, do not have a long shelf life, so, a portion of my investment and hard work can end up being thrown away.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d287a355970cCurry powders and pastes cannot be used interchangeably.

Curry blends and pastes are not created equal.  For example:  When I make curry, sometimes I make Thai curry (which requires green, red or yellow paste), sometimes I make Indian curry (which relies on garam masala), and, sometimes I make Jamaican curry, which has its own flavor profile.  Know the country of the curry you're preparing and don't substitute one type for another.

Jamaican-Style Curry Powder.

Jamaican curry powder contains allspice and Indian-style curry powder does not.  Indian curry powder contains cardamom and mace, Jamaican curry powder does not.  All Jamaican curries contain coconut milk, but only South Indian curries do.  Jamaican curries tend to be spicy and sweet while Indian curries are mild and slightly tart.

Tonight, creamy, spicy Jamaican curry is what I am craving:

This four-season recipe makes a good-sized quantity, twelve dinner-sized servings (or sixteen+ luncheon-sized servings). That sounds like a lot, but, leftovers reheat perfectly, so the little bit of extra slicing and dicing is worth the extra effort -- plus, it freezes well too.  There's more.  Like many stews, it tastes even better the second day, so, it can be made ahead and served with freshly-steamed rice without compromise -- which is convenient if you're entertaining. That said, if you don't want leftovers, cut the recipe in half (and prepare it in a smaller skillet).

IMG_33711  bone-in Boston butt pork roast, about 7-8 pounds total

4  tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil, for preparing skillet

2  teaspoons sea salt, total throughout recipe, 1 teaspoon for seasoning meat and 1 teaspoon for seasoning vegetables

2  cups each:  1/2" diced green and red bell pepper

IMG_45401-1 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup chopped cilantro leaves + plus additional leaves for garnish

2  14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes, well-drained

6  tablespoons hot Jamaican curry powder

2  teaspoons garlic paste

2  teaspoons ginger paste

1/2  teaspoon habanero powder IMG_4227(Note:  Jamaicans typically use fresh Scotch Bonnet chilies for heat, which I don't always have access too, but, the slightly-citrusy flavor of incendiary habanero powder, which I keep on my spice rack, is a marvelous substitute.)

3  14-ounce cans coconut milk, shaken or stirred prior to using

6  cups uncooked jasmine rice, or, 12 cups steamed jasmine rice, cooked via your favorite method

IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376~Step 1.  Remove pork from packaging.  Trim off "fat cap" layer. Starting at bone-free-end, cut into 3/4"-1"-thick steaks, then, cut steaks into 1"-1 1/4" chunks.  When you get to the bone-in-end, do your best to cut around the bone, cutting the meat into 1"-1 1/4" chunks.  As you work, discard any chunks that are almost all fat.  When finished, there will be 4+ pounds of trimmed, nicely-marbled pork.  The goal is to have well-marbled pieces, not, fat-laden chunks.

IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411~Step 2.  Place and heat the 1/4 cup oil in a 14" chef's pan over medium-high heat.  Add the pork cubes and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the sea salt.  Adjust heat to sauté, using a large spatula to stir frequently, until meat is lightly-browned on all sides, and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pan, about 18-20-22 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_4225 IMG_4225 IMG_4225 IMG_4225~Step 3.  Prep the green and red bell peppers, onion and cilantro as directed, placing them in the chef's pan as you work.  Add the diced tomatoes, curry powder, garlic paste, ginger paste and remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Add the coconut milk and stir to thoroughly combine.

IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243~Step 4.  Over medium- medium-high heat bring mixture to a rapid simmer, stirring frequently.  Once simmering, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 40-45 minutes, until nicely thickened.  Turn heat off, cover pan, and allow the curry to steep on the warm stovetop, another 40-45 minutes to allow the flavors time to marry.  Steam rice while curry steeps and serve warm curry over steamed rice.

Serve warm curry over freshly-steamed white rice:

IMG_4559A creamy-rich & spicy hot bowl of Jamaican love: 

IMG_4564Creamy-Coconut & Spicy-Hot Jamaican Pork Curry:  Recipe yields 4-5 quarts/16-20 cups pork curry mixture/12 large dinner-sized servings or 16+ smaller luncheon-sized servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spoon; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fc4526c4970bCook's Note: I do not profess to knowing a lot about India or being an authority on authentic Indian cuisine.  I have never had the opportunity to travel there, however, I have had the pleasure of having been entertained, on several occasions back in the early 1980's, in the home of a neighborhood couple, who just happened to hail from India.  My recipe for ~ Easy Indian Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~, is a testament to one of the many wonderful dishes I was introduced to at their dinner table.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/11/2018

~Pork Butt Blade Steaks w/Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce~

IMG_4501Known as pork steaks, pork butt steaks or pork blade steaks, these bone-in steaks are cut from the shoulder of the pig -- the same part of the porcine used to make pulled pork.  Similar in taste and texture to close-kin country-style spareribs*, they were invented in St. Louis, MO, and are a Midwest staple.  As a country-style spare rib lover living in central Pennsylvania, I ask my butcher to custom-cut these inexpensive, lesser-to-unknown-here steaks for me.  Perhaps this post will help them to catch on "here in the counties", and start showing up in our local markets.

*Country-style ribs are cut from the blade end of the loin close to the shoulder. They're meatier than other ribs.  They contain no rib bones, but contain parts of the shoulder blade bone.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d35058970c"Pork butt" or "Boston butt", is a bone-in cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the "pork shoulder" from the front leg of the hog. Smoked or barbecued, Boston butt is a southern tradition.  This cut of meat got its name in pre-Revolutionary War New England:

Butcher's in Boston left the blade bone in this inexpensive cut of pork 6a0120a8551282970b01bb09ec4b35970dshoulder then packed and stored the meat in casks called "butts". They sold the pork shoulders individually to their customers, and, when they got popular, they began shipping "the butts" Southward and throughout the Colonies.  Simply stated:  the way the hog shoulder was butchered, combined with "the butt" they arrived in, evolved into the name "Boston butt".

IMG_4424Steaks cut from the pork shoulder are marbled with lots of fat and rich with collagen, which, like the roast, makes them extremely flavorful.  

Because overcooking renders them dry and tough, this quick-cooking cut is perfect for the grill, sauté pan or broiler.  Choose pinkish-gray steaks that are generally the same size and thickness (3/4"-thick is ideal), and, have been trimmed of excessive fat from around the fat-cap-side.

Note:  These 8 steaks, weighing a total of 8.05 pounds, cost $14.33.  That's a whole lot of economical wonderfulness -- especially if you've got a big family with big appetites to feed.

Because overcooking renders them tough, this quick-cooking pork steak is perfect for the grill, grill pan, sauté pan or broiler.  

IMG_4462As for seasonings, salt and pepper is all they require, but, they play well with dry seasoning blends or wet marinades too -- and, they love to be slathered with BBQ sauce at the end.

Choose side-dishes to complement the seasonings used & set the table:

Pork steaks cook to an internal temp of 145° in a short 5-6 minutes per side.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87ff653970bThere are no words to tell you how well my Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce for Poultry or Pork, which is made with my Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine (which I keep on hand in my freezer) and a host of aromatic spices (allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and mace to name a few), pairs with these pork steaks. Store-bought peach preserves will work just fine too, so, don't let that sway you from taking the few minutes to make this divine sauce for your pork blade steaks.

How to cook great pork steak indoors on a grill pan:

IMG_4426 IMG_4426 IMG_4426Step 1.  I'm demo-ing one steak today, so I'm using my 10"-round grill pan.  To cook 4 steaks at once, I use my bigger double-burner-sized grill pan.  To cook 8 steaks at once, I use both of my double-burner grill pans.

IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432~Step 2.  Spray a grill pan with no-stick spray and place over medium-high heat.  Place a 3/4"-thick, room-temperature pork butt blade steak on the hot grill grids.  Season with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, about 5 grinds of salt and 10 grinds of peppercorn blend.  If you have a bacon press, place it on top of steak -- this will hold it closer to the heat which makes for prettier grill marks -- if you don't have a bacon press, no big deal.  Cook steak on first side for 5 minutes, or until golden grill marks appear, but do not cook it longer than 6 minutes.  Flip steak over.  Season the cooked first side with salt and pepper, place the optional bacon press back on top and cook for 5 (and no more than 6) more minutes.  Turn the heat off and allow steak to rest, in pan, for 3 minutes.

Slice in half on a diagonal (half bone-in, half boneless)...

IMG_4478... & top w/a big dollop of Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce:

IMG_4475Serve w/a side of my Creamy Crunchy Cole Slaw & dig in!

IMG_4531Pork Butt Blade Steaks w/Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce:  Recipe yields instructions to cook 3/4"-thick pork steaks indoors on a grill pan.

Special Equipment List:  appropriately sized grill pan (a sauté pan may be substituted); large spatula or bacon fork (for flipping steaks over); bacon press (optional)

IMG_3530Cook's Note:  Pork shoulder or pork butt, when trimmed and cut into 3/4"-1" cubes makes marvelous chili.  For one of my favorite New-Mexico-Style versions, try my recipe for Hatch Green Chile Chili with Pork and White Beans.  Make a big batch because it freezes great.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/08/2018

~ Super Sausage-Pizza Sliders on Pizza Dough Rolls ~

IMG_4335While these paled in comparison to what historically just might be the best Super Bowl game ever, my game-winning pizza sliders were the hit of our indoor at-home tailgate feast on Sunday. Sausage, mushrooms and onion has long been my favorite carnivorous topping for a pizza, and, when it comes to my signature sliders, the topping combo comes in the form of a patty -- served up on a pizza-dough roll, sloppy with melted mozzarella, marinara, and roasted red pepper too.

IMG_4136The inspiration for pizza-dough-rolls came several years ago.  My mother remarked that my Sicilian-style pizza dough just might make great bread or dinner rolls.  My first reaction was to laugh, but, after thinking about it, I decided it was worth giving the idea a try -- "nothing ventured, nothing gained", as mom always said. Thing is, when I baked them freeform on a flat pan, while they were good, they simply were not as light on the inside.  The muffin tin corrected that, in that:  the shape of a muffin cup, with its steep, gently-sloped sides seriously promotes their rising and developing beautifully-domed tops. (Dinner roll-size on left/slider-size on right.)

IMG_4153I use my favorite herby Sicilian-style pizza dough recipe, and, I typically put some herbs in my dough even when I'm making a basic tomato-sauce and mozzarella-cheese pizza. That said, there are many types of pizza dough.  Feel free to use your own favorite recipe, it should work (no guarantees though) as long as it is Sicilian-style, but please add the herbs to it -- it's the flavored dough that makes these rolls amazing.  If you'd like to try my recipe, you can make my dough via conventional hand mixing and kneading, you can make it via a stand mixer or a food processor, or, you can do what I currently do:  allow the bread machine to do most of the work for me, which simplifies the process considerably.

IMG_4062If you're a person who sits down to dinner and likes to dip your rustic bread in a side of tangy tomato-based pasta sauce or savory American-style gravy, these muffin-tin-baked personal-sized dinner rolls are better than any slice of rustic bread any day of the week -- so be prepared to expand your waistband. To make dinner rolls, simply double the ingredients on the following list and double the baking time too.  Put a basket of these on your dinner table and let the dipping begin.

My savory Super Bowl sammies were so popular on Sunday, they prompted me to write two blog posts detailing my recipes for muffin-tin-baked pizza-dough slider- and dinner-sized rolls.

To make 1 dozen slider-size pizza-dough rolls:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94cc92e970bFor the dough:

3/4  cups warm water

1  tablespoon olive oil

2 1/4  cups all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and coarse-grind black pepper

1 1/8 teaspoon yeast granules

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing muffin tins

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d7360e970cStep 1.  To prepare the dough, place all ingredients in pan of bread machine in the order listed, except for the yeast.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Place the yeast into the indentation.  Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug the machine  6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d73637970cin, press the "Select" button, choose the "Pizza Dough" cycle, then press "Start". In 55 minutes, you will have 1 pound, 1 ounce of dough.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94cc98c970bStep 2. Using lightly-oiled fingertips,  6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d778c2970cremove dough from pan.  Dough will be slightly sticky, yet very manageable.

IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021~Step 3. Spray insides of 12, standard-sized muffin cups with no-stick spray. Remove dough from bread pan.  Divide dough into 12, slightly less than 1 1/2-ounce pieces (1 3/8-ounces each is great).  The best way to do this is with a kitchen scale.   In between the palms of hands, form each piece of dough into a ball, placing one in each muffin. Cover the pan(s) with a lint-free cotton towel and allow dough to rise for 30 minutes.

IMG_4116 IMG_4116 IMG_4116~Step 4.  Uncover the pans and bake rolls on center rack of preheated 350° oven, 10-12 minutes, or until lightly-browned and hollow sounding when tapped with the knuckle of index finger.  Do not overcook these rolls. Italian bread is rarely deep-golden in color.  Remove from oven and place pans on a wire cooling rack. Cool rolls in pans 2-3 minutes prior to removing them from pans to wire rack cool completely.

Prepping the toppings for 1 dozen pizza sliders:

IMG_4289For the toppings:

12  slices deli-style mozzarella cheese, cut into quarters

1 1/2-2 cups marinara sauce, homemade or your favorite brand, warmed on the stovetop or in the microwave

24  roasted red pepper pieces, trimmed to fit 12 sandwiches 

12  3"-round pizza-dough slider rolls, from above recipe

IMG_4293 IMG_4293 IMG_4293~ Step 1.  Cut each slice of mozzarella into quarters. From 9 of the slices, stack the pieces on top of each other, 12 stacks of 3 pieces each.  Set the remaining 12 pieces (from 3 slices) aside, separate from the stacked pieces. Drain and trim the roasted red peppers into 24 squarish-pieces and stack the pieces on top of each other, 12 stacks of 2 pieces each.  Warm the marinara sauce and slice the slider rolls. 

For 1 dozen slider-size sausage, mushroom & onion patties:

IMG_41841 1/4  pounds bulk sausage, sweet or hot, your choice

6  ounces small-diced white button mushroom caps, about 2 generous cups

4  ounces small-diced yellow or sweet onion, about 1 cup

1  tablespoon olive oil

coarsely-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, about 10 grinds salt & 15 grinds pepper

IMG_4187 IMG_4187 IMG_4187 IMG_4187 IMG_4187~Step 1.  Place olive oil in a 10" nonstick skillet.  Dice the onion and mushroom caps as directed, placing them in the skillet as you work. Lightly season with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Place over medium heat and stirring almost constantly, cook until the bottom of the skillet is very dry and veggies are just beginning to brown, 8-9 minutes.  Remove from heat cool and to slightly warm or room temperature, 30-45 minutes.

IMG_4215 IMG_4215 IMG_4215~Step 2.  Place sausage in a large bowl and add the cooled mushroom and onion mixture.  Using your hands, mix thoroughly, like you would meatloaf.  You will have about 1 pound, 10 ounces of sausage, mushroom and onion mixture.  Cover sausage mixture with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to firm up a bit, about 30-60  minutes, this will make it easier to divide and form the slider-size patties.

IMG_4265 2 IMG_4265 2 IMG_4265 2 IMG_4265 2 IMG_4265 2 IMG_4265 2~Step 3.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, place about 1 7/8-2 ounces of the chilled sausage mixture in the center of a 3"-round pastry cutter. Using your fingertips, pat and press the meat into the cutter, to mold a patty.  Repeat this process, 11 more times, placing the patties in the bottom of a 12" nonstick skillet as you work.  Note:  The sausage contains plenty of its own fat, so there is no need for oil or no-stick spray in the skillet.

IMG_4280 IMG_4280 IMG_4280 IMG_4280~Step 4.  Adjust heat on stovetop to medium, and, cook the patties until golden brown on both sides and just cooked through, turning only once, about 6 minutes per side.  Adjust the heat up or down as necessary so as not to overcook -- you want the patties to remain plump and juicy.

IMG_4314 IMG_4314 IMG_4314 IMG_4314 IMG_4314~Step 6.  To melt the cheese on the patties, place one stack of three pieces of mozzarella cheese on top of each sausage patty.  Put a lid on the skillet and wait for the cheese to melt.  This will take 2-4 minutes, depending on how thick the deli-cheese was sliced.  Turn the heat off but keep the lid on the skillet until it's their turn on the slider rolls.

IMG_4306 IMG_4306 IMG_4306 IMG_4306 IMG_4306~Step 7.  On the bottom half of each sliced slider roll, place one piece of the reserved mozzarella cheese.  Spoon a generous tablespoon of warm marinara sauce on top of the cheese.  Top the sauce with one of the warm sausage patties, followed by two roasted red pepper pieces.  Add the top half of each roll and serve sliders while still warm -- ASAP.

Pretty as a picture & tastes even better:

IMG_4345Pick your pizza slider up & give it a gentle squish...

IMG_4361... then proceed to do what you do best: 

IMG_4369Super Sausage-Pizza Sliders on Pizza Dough Rolls:  Recipe yields 12, 3"-round slider-sized sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine (optional); 2, standard-sized muffin pans, enough for 12 muffins/rolls; kitchen scale; wire cooling rack; cutting board; chef's knife; 10" skillet, preferably nonstick; large slotted spoon or spatula; plastic wrap; 3"-round pastry cutter; 12" skillet w/lid, preferably nonstick

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f03571970dCook's Note:  I surely didn't invent the word pizz'alad, but it is catchy. That said, I'd been kind-of making one for years before publications like Eating Well, Bon Appetít and Food and Wine started coining this trendy term to describe a pizza with a salad on top.  Everyone loves a personal-sized pizza, and, for a different,  delicious, not to mention fun twist to "normal" pizza, test your creativity and try your hand at making: ~ Pizz' alads:  Salad Pizza (Pizza w/a Salad on Top) ~.  Be prepared for many accolades! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/06/2018

~Baked-in-Muffin-Tins Slider-Size Pizza-Dough Rolls~

IMG_4148Every sandwich deserves to be served on great bread, so, when I decided to serve these cold submarine sliders alongside my hot and cheesy sausage, mushroom and onion pizza sliders at yesterday's indoor Super Bowl tailgate, I started by making my slider-size pizza-dough rolls.  I've been making these unique rolls, in both slider- and dinner-roll size for several years now. They're chewy and light on the inside with plenty of crusty exterior, and, once folks get a taste of one, "why didn't I think of that", and, "this is amazing", are statements I hear a lot.

Pizza-dough dinner- or slider-size rolls...

IMG_4127"Why didn't I think of that?", &, "These are amazing!"

IMG_4136The inspiration for these came when my mother mentioned that my Sicilian-style pizza dough would make great bread or dinner rolls. My first reaction was to laugh, but, after thinking about it a bit, I decided it was worth giving the idea a try -- "nothing ventured, nothing gained", as mom always said.  Thing is, when I baked them freeform on a flat pan, while they were good, they simply were not as light on the inside.  The muffin tin corrected that, in that, the shape of a muffin cup, with its steep, gently-sloped sides seriously promoted their rising and developing beautifully-domed tops. (Dinner roll-size on left/slider-size on right.)

The shape of a muffin cup, with its steep, gently-sloped sides promotes rising & a beautifully-domed top.

I use my favorite herby Sicilian-style pizza dough recipe, and, I typically put some herbs in my dough even when I'm making a basic tomato-sauce and mozzarella-cheese pizza.  That said, there are many types of pizza dough.  Feel free to use your own favorite recipe, it should work (no guarantees though) as long as it is Sicilian-style, but please add the herbs to it -- it's the flavored dough that makes these rolls amazing.  If you'd like to try my recipe, you can make my dough via conventional hand mixing and kneading, you can make it via a stand mixer or a food processor, or, you can do what I currently do:  allow the bread machine to do most of the work for me, which simplifies the process considerably -- and yields 1 dozen, amazing, 3"-round slider rolls.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c88f4822970bFor the dough:

3/4  cups warm water

1  tablespoon olive oil

2 1/4  cups all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and coarse-grind black pepper

1 1/8 teaspoon yeast granules

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing muffin tins

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7cda6a1970bStep 1.  To prepare the dough, place all ingredients in pan of bread machine in the order listed, except for the yeast.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Place the yeast into the indentation.  Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug the machine 6a0120a8551282970b01bb0872017a970din, press the "Select" button, choose the "Pizza Dough" cycle, then press "Start". In 55 minutes, you will have 1 pound, 1 ounce of dough.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1579a17970cStep 2. Using lightly-oiled fingertips, IMG_4096remove dough from pan.  Dough will be slightly sticky, yet very manageable.

IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021~Step 3. Spray insides of 12, standard-sized muffin cups with no-stick spray. Remove dough from bread pan.  Divide dough into 12, slightly less than 1 1/2-ounce pieces (1 3/8-ounces each is great).  The best way to do this is with a kitchen scale.   In between the palms of hands, form each piece of dough into a ball, placing one in each muffin. Cover the pan(s) with a lint-free cotton towel and allow dough to rise for 30 minutes.

IMG_4116 IMG_4116 IMG_4116~Step 4.  Uncover the pans and bake rolls on center rack of preheated 350° oven, 10-12 minutes, or until lightly-browned and hollow sounding when tapped with the knuckle of index finger.  Do not overcook these rolls. Italian bread is rarely deep-golden in color.  Remove from oven and place pans on a wire cooling rack. Cool rolls in pans 2-3 minutes prior to removing them from pans to wire rack cool completely.

Provolone, salami, pepperoni, turkey, onion, tomato & lettuce:

IMG_4139Put a lid on it & stick a pick in it:

IMG_4153Pick it up & gently squeeze it all together:

IMG_4155The best submarine slider pretty much anywhere:

IMG_4159Baked-in-Muffin-Tins Slider-Sized Pizza-Dough Buns:  Recipe yields 1 dozen slider-sized pizza-dough rolls.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine (optional); 2, standard-sized muffin pans, enough for 12 muffins/rolls; kitchen scale; lint-free cotton towel; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2197a72970cCook's Note:  I surely didn't invent the word pizz'alad, but it is catchy. That said, I'd been kind-of making one for years before publications like Eating Well, Bon Appetít and Food and Wine started coining this trendy term to describe a pizza with a salad on top.  Everyone loves a personal-sized pizza, and, for a different,  delicious, not to mention fun twist to "normal" pizza, test your creativity and try your hand at making: ~ Pizz' alads:  Salad Pizza (Pizza w/a Salad on Top) ~.  Be prepared for many accolades! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/04/2018

~ Herbed, Muffin-Tin-Baked Yeast-Bread Dinner Rolls ~

IMG_4062Be prepared to expand your waistband.  If you're a person who sits down to dinner and likes to dip your rustic bread in a side of tangy tomato-based pasta sauce or savory American-style gravy, these muffin-tin-baked personal-sized dinner rolls are better than any slice of rustic bread any day of the week. This (my) bread-machine-mixed dough bakes up chewy and light on the inside with plenty of crusty exterior.  Put a basket of these on your dinner table and let the dipping begin.

When a slightly-adjusted Sicilian-style pizza-dough recipe...

IMG_4043... turns into a dozen Italian-bread-style dinner rolls.

The inspiration for these came when my mother mentioned that my Sicilian-style pizza dough would make great bread or dinner rolls.  My first reaction was to laugh, but, after thinking about it, I decided it was worth giving the idea a try -- "nothing ventured, nothing gained", as mom always said.  Thing is, when I baked them freeform on a flat pan, while they were good, they simply were not as light on the inside.  The muffin tin corrected that, in that, the shape of a muffin cup, with its steep, gently-sloped sides seriously promoted their rising and developing beautifully-domed tops.

I use my favorite herby Sicilian-style pizza dough recipe, and, I typically put some herbs in my dough even when I'm making a basic tomato-sauce and mozzarella-cheese pizza.  That said, there are many types of pizza dough.  Feel free to use your own favorite recipe, it should work (no guarantees though) as long as it is Sicilian-style, but please add the herbs to it -- it's the flavored dough that makes these rolls amazing.  If you'd like to try my recipe, you can make my dough via conventional hand mixing and kneading, you can make it via a stand mixer or a food processor, or, you can do what I currently do:  allow the bread machine to do most of the work for me, which simplifies the process considerably -- and yields 1 dozen, amazing, 3"-round dinner rolls.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94cc92e970bFor the dough:

1 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

1  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and coarse-grind black pepper

1  packet granulated dry yeast

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing muffin tins

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d7360e970cStep 1.  To prepare the dough, place all ingredients in pan of bread machine in the order listed, except for the yeast.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Place the yeast into the indentation.  Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug the machine in, 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d73637970cselect the "Pizza Dough" cycle, then press "Start". You will have 2 pounds, 2-ounces of bread dough, ready to use, in 55 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94cc98c970bStep 2. Using lightly-oiled fingertips, 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7cdae2f970bremove dough from pan.  Dough will be sticky, yet very manageable.

IMG_4021 IMG_4021 IMG_4021~Step 3. Spray insides of 12, standard-sized muffin cups with no-stick spray. Remove dough from bread pan.  Divide dough into 12, slightly less than 3-ounce pieces (2 7/8-ounces each is great).  The best way to do this is with a kitchen scale.   Form each piece of dough into a ball, placing one in each muffin cup. Cover the pan(s) with a lint-free cotton towel and allow dough a short rise, in pans, for 15 minutes.

IMG_4031 IMG_4031 IMG_4031~Step 4.  Uncover the pans and bake rolls on center rack of preheated 350° oven, 20-22 minutes, or until lightly-browned and hollow sounding when tapped with the knuckle of index finger.  Do not overcook these rolls. Italian bread is rarely deep-golden in color.  Remove from oven and place pans on a wire cooling rack. Cool rolls in pans 5-6 minutes prior to removing them from pans to wire rack cool completely.

Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or reheated.

IMG_4043Pull one apart, let the dipping begin...

IMG_4051... & be prepared to expand your waistband!

IMG_4067Herbed, Muffin-Tin-Baked Yeast-Bread Dinner Rolls:  Recipe yields 1 dozen, 3"-round muffin-shaped dinner rolls.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine (optional); 2, standard-sized muffin pans, enough for 12 muffins/rolls; kitchen scale; wire cooling rack

IMG_4153 IMG_4136Cook's Note: If it's a slider-sub you prefer, by making the dough balls half-sized, you can easily make ~ Baked-in-Muffin-Tins Slider-Size Pizza-Dough Rolls ~.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018 

02/02/2018

~ An Apple-a-Day & Granola Too, Breakfast for Two ~

IMG_3977If you're not too lazy to peel and slice one apple in the AM, and if you keep a bag of granola in your pantry, a steaming-hot, flavorful and filling breakfast is five-minutes from your fingertips. What I like about this "what I cook for me" recipe is:  everything.  As a kid, I loved stewed apples -- somewhere in between apple pie filling and chunky applesauce, they are less sweet with a less thickened, au natural, taste and texture.  My mother made stewed apples to serve with her pork roast for dinner, but, she'd always set a small bowl aside -- to stir into my morning oatmeal.

While not my mom's old-fashioned oatmeal w/stewed apples...

IMG_3983... it's just as yummy in a faster-food busy-day-breakfast way.

When I was growing up, granola, the kind we buy in our grocery stores nowadays, didn't exist -- ok, it might have existed but no one was marketing it.  Had it been available to me as a kid, I'd have been pouring milk on it, as, for my taste, dry granola, like all dried cereals, no matter how healthy they tout themselves, is not something I sit and snack on -- thank goodness because both are loaded with calories -- up to 250 per 1/2 cup serving.  In fact, the only thing I buy granola for is to make this small-portion, seriously-filling 5-minute-to-make microwave hot-breakfast.

IMG_4015 IMG_39431  6-ounce apple, peeled and cut into 1/4"-thick slices

12  tablespoons Quaker cinnamon-apple-walnut granola, 6 tablespoons per bowl

12  tablespoons whole milk, 6 tablespoons per bowl

2  6-ounce cereal bowls

IMG_3946 IMG_3946 IMG_3946~ Step 1.  Peel, core and cut the apple into slightly-less-than 1/4"-thick slices. Divide the apples between 2, 6-ounce cereal bowls.

IMG_3955 IMG_3955 IMG_3955~ Step 2.  Place the granola on top of the apples, 6 tablespoons in each bowl.  Add the milk, 6 tablespoons in each bowl.

IMG_3967 IMG_3967 IMG_3967~ Step 3.  Cover the bowls so steam cannot escape.  I love these little silicone bowl covers.  Place in microwave on high power for 1 minute, 45 seconds.  The steam that builds up from the cooking apples and milk will soften the granola to a yummy consistency.  Remove from microwave, uncover the bowls and give each portion a thorough stir -- the volume will drop as soon as the steamed cereal hits the hot milk. 

Full of flavor, texture & stick-to-your-ribs happiness...

IMG_3997... a little bowl goes a long way to curb your enthusiasm...

IMG_4003... for the junk-food snacks for the rest of the day.

IMG_4008An Apple-a-Day & Granola Too, Breakfast for Two:  Recipe yields 2 small but hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife; 2, small 6-ounce bowls; 2, 4"-round, heat-proof, microwave-safe silicon bowl/cup covers (optional but helpful)

IMG_2731Cook's Note:  I've always liked and started my day with some fruit, in some capacity, in the morning.  For one of my favorite breakfast sandwiches, sans the egg, check out my recipe for ~ Sausage, Apple & Herbed-Brie Breakfast Burgers ~.  I like to go eggless once in a while -- it's a woman's prerogative.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)